ITP Glossary: Quarter Quarter Half

Football is littered with specialized terminology. From punt gunner to climbing the pocket, commentators rarely get to explain everything you need to know before the next play. Inside The Pylon’s glossary was developed to give fans a deeper understanding of the game through clear explanations, as well as image and video examples. Please contact us with any terms or phrases you’d like to know more about.

Quarter Quarter Half

Quarter quarter half is a three-deep zone defense where the coverage areas are not symmetrically divided, as they are in other schemes. Instead, one defensive back (usually a safety) patrols half the field deep, as in Cover 2, while two more defensive backs (usually a safety and a cornerback) split the other half of the field, as in Cover 4. As quarter quarter half combines elements of Cover 4 and Cover 2, it is also known as Cover 6 (4 + 2 = 6).CFBReview12MSUStill2

This coverage is common in college football, in part because college fields have wider hash marks. If the ball is snapped near one of the hash marks rather than the center of the field, the safety who has to cover his half alone will handle the narrower “boundary” side. The other safety and corner take the wider “field” side. This prevents one player from having to cover too large an area.

San Diego State used a quarter quarter half look to get a third-down stop against the California Golden Bears:

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The Aztecs initially show four high defensive backs, but at the snap safety Kendrick Mathis (#32) drops into an underneath zone. Cornerback J.J. Whittaker (#7) and safety Na’im McGee (#21) split the field side while Kameron Kelly (#27) takes the boundary side. California quarterback Jared Goff (#16) targets Darius Powe (#10) on an in-cut to the middle of the field, but pressure and a closing McGee disrupt the timing of the play and force Goff to unload the pass early. Powe turns late, the ball clangs off him, and McGee prevents the senior receiver from getting a second chance at a catch.

Since quarter quarter half has a Cover 2 side and a Cover 4 side, teams will often attack it with route combinations that they typically use against those zone defenses. On the following play, Michigan State’s Connor Cook attacks the “honey hole” between the Penn State cornerback and safety along the sideline on the Cover 2 side of the field.

The Nittany Lions defense rolls into Cover 6, keeping the Cover 2 look to the pro side of the formation with cornerback John Reid (#29) and safety Marcus Allen (#2), but dropping into a soft Cover 4 look on the wide side of the field. As the play develops, Z receiver Aaron Burbridge (#16) has a free release with Reid giving the WR a bit of a cushion. After a few steps, the receiver bends to the outside, attempting to establish outside leverage on his vertical route. Reid then gets a solid jam on Burbridge, driving the receiver out of bounds. The CB then turns toward the middle of the field to read the play.

Behind him, Allen takes a few steps forward, drawn in by the playfake, before recognizing the passing play and the route on the outside. The safety then begins to widen. This creates a fairly narrow throwing window for Cook to find Burbridge. But given that this route is a great way to attack Cover 2, and that the throw comes to the shorter side of the field, Cook looks to squeeze this in:

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Cook’s throw is delivered with good timing, anticipation and velocity, and the football arrives just before the safety. The pass is a bit high, but Burbridge is able to high point the football and secure the catch. When Allen tries to separate the receiver from the ball by delivering a chest-high shot, Burbridge simply bounces off the safety, stays upright, and then spins around a retreating linebacker, and races into the end zone with the touchdown.

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Dave Archibald and Mark Schofield wrote this entry. Follow Dave on Twitter @davearchie. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.

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